In this sequel to Larklight, siblings Art and Myrtle Mumby are in for another rousing adventure. They are renovating Larklight, their unusual dwelling (it orbits the earth and used to be a sort of spaceship), and they receive an invitation from an acquaintance to get away from the furor of the construction crew and take a relaxing vacation at the seaside resort of Starcross. Their father has an important meeting to attend, so Art, Myrtle and their mother take the journey to the resort, located on an asteroid orbiting Mars, and at first it looks as though they will have a pleasant little vacation together. Mr. Mumby plans to join them later.
But soon it becomes apparent that things are not as they seem. The ocean, completely lacking when they first arrived, mysteriously appears and reappears in a place where no water could possibly exist. Myrtle, heartbroken because of her beloved Jack's refusal to reply to her letters, spots him outside the hotel talking with a breathtakingly beautiful Frenchwoman. Someone tries to kill one of the hotel guests. There is something odd about the hat in the closet of Art's room - and the strange sound he hears in the night, a softly spoken "Moob." They find themselves facing an unimaginable enemy with no idea whatsoever how to begin to fight it. Luckily they are resourceful and intelligent, and Art's unusual mother has a few tricks up her sleeve.
I have a weakness for books that blend genres in fun and unusual ways, and this series, with its combination of space opera, mystery, boy's adventure, and Victorian novel, is simply irresistible. Reeve has a gift for language, and no matter whose point of view he tells the story from, the story ratchets along, exciting, funny, and with turns of phrase that made me keep having to stop the audio track, go back, listen again, and grin. The old-fashioned language heightens the humor tremendously - for example, Art shares his worries about his situation as the climactic scene approaches, saying, "My army consisted of me, two elderly gentlemen who were not feeling quite the ticket, a grumpy goblin, two anemones, a large crab, and a blue lizard of the gentler sex." And Myrtle - I just love her! She tries so hard to be ladylike, as she imagines a proper Englishwoman must be - but when push comes to shove, she rises to the occasion despite her qualms (and is often quite embarrassed afterwards).
I enjoyed listening to this book, but I am definitely planning on getting my hands on a copy of the printed version so I can take a look at the illustrations by David Wyatt, which I enjoyed so much in the first book. This is an excellent series, humorous and gripping, with engaging characters, surprising plot twists, and an incredibly imaginative setting. I highly recommend it!
Books in the Larklight series:
1. Larklight: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space
2. Starcross: A Stirring Adventure of Spies, Time Travel and Curious Hats
3. Mothstorm (forthcoming - fall, 2008)
Starcross: A Stirring Adventure of Spies, Time Travel and Curious Hats by Philip Reeve; narrated by Greg Steinbruner (Recorded Books, 2008)
Also reviewed at:
A World of Stories